I was cleaning an old filing cabinet in the middle of March, 2013, when I found this letter from my mom:
I’m writing to you to provide you with “exciting” information about my history.
You cannot, at any time, accuse me of repetition!
Ok, here goes: I was used to hearing foul language in our second-floor, cold-water flat. For some reason, Nana wanted me to go to parochial school. I promptly got in trouble for saying “fuck you,” to a nun who subsequently washed my mouth out with soap.
After that episode, I became a pre-school drop out. I think mom and my grandmother were mortified!
I’ve mentioned that there was a lot of yelling in our first apartment on Ridge Street. I do remember being cold a lot.
I guess the next thing I clearly remember was hearing Nana and Papa screaming at each other. This particular time, although there were many, papa left his cash on the dining room table. I was afraid it would get lost so I hid it in a closet.
I don’t remember if they kept fighting after I told them where the money was.
Mom always told the story about Papa and the barking dogs. Papa was so happy to get them, but when he got them home, they didn’t bark and he was devastated.
I always felt like the only sane one in the family.
At one point, we moved to a small house about 100 yards up from the beach. Daddy got us a dog. I loved that dog more than my life. Lady was my best friend, but we had to move.
I put Lady in my doll carriage and pushed it up the street to our new house. The owner wouldn’t let us have pets, so my dad took her to the pound. Maybe that’s why I always wanted pets.
The letter is dated 1/12/09 and the envelope is postmarked the next day. The return address is from her house on NW 30th Terrace in Gainesville, Florida.
An interesting fact about this letter is that what I have is a photocopy. I’m not sure why she made a photocopy of it, or why she sent me the photocopy instead of the original.
I had no idea she had ever lived in a second-floor, cold-water flat, and I’d never heard of Ridge Street.
Her handwriting is perfect, but — in retrospect — after reading it I should have clearly realized that she had been suffering from some serious sort of memory problem.
Calling an apartment a “flat” seems so strange to me, and not like anything she would have ever said aloud. She forgot to put a comma after the word saying. She used the phrase a lot. She spelled table as talbe, then crossed it out and kept going. Those little mistakes are all very uncharacteristic of her. And of course the disjointed narrative was completely unlike anything of hers I’d ever read.